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Need advice quick for short stop in Switzerland! And swiss transfer qxs.

Need advice quick for short stop in Switzerland! And swiss transfer qxs.

Nov 10th, 2012, 01:44 PM
  #1  
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Need advice quick for short stop in Switzerland! And swiss transfer qxs.

I'm in the middle of a 10 week trip through Europe with 2 kids (8 and 10). I planned everything in advance except for the upcoming week when we're supposed to visit Switzerland and Venice, each for 3 - 4 days. I left this open so I could be sure we'd be up for the short jaunt to Switzerland and to make sure the weather would be good enough to make it worthwhile. So, our departure from France is only a few days away and the good news is we still have the energy and the weather looks fantastic. The bad news is, I need to make decisions, fast!.

Questions...
Deciding between lauterbrunnen and zermatt: from what I read the scenery getting to and around jungfrau seems more diverse with more things to do whereas zermatt basically offers the view of the matterhorn. For that reason, I'm inclined to choose lauterbrunnen; however, it seems that it will be easier (i.e. fewer transfers) to get into and out of zermatt and that is a big factor for us after lugging our stuff around 7 cities in the past 6 weeks. Any opinions? Is the harder work to get to lauterbrunnen worth it for the scenery as compared to zermatt?? If we choose zermatt, is the scenery good en route from Geneva?

Also, since I didn't want to commit to this before leaving the states, I never ordered a swiss transfer ticket. I understand that I can't buy this in Switzerland. Does anyone know if I can buy it in person somewhere before leaving France? Also, with the transfer ticket, I know I have to take the shortest route possible. If there are several trains throughout the day but only 1 is direct, does that mean I have to take the direct one? What if I want to depart later in the day and have missed the direct route, can I still jump on one of the others or would I have to wait until the next day? Finally, does anyone know how far the transfer ticket will get me on my way to Venice? If there is a direct train available, would I have to go out of my way to use a border station instead?

Thanks for any information!
jenninwv is offline  
Nov 10th, 2012, 04:43 PM
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Jenninwv,

1) This is pretty much the worst time of year to be visiting the Alps, unfortunately - even if the weather cooperates, which is indeed supposed to next week, many lifts are closed, and days are very short. Of the 2 options you provide, I would choose Zermatt, mostly because it never fully shuts down. In the Lauterbrunnen area, the Schilthorn cable car is closed for maintenance from November 12th to December 7th, another strike against heading there.

Another option is Luzern, a pretty town that will actually be alive as it doesn't just rely on tourism. When the weather is good, you can head for the Pilatus and/or Rigi summits. The lifts to the more impressive Titlis are closed from November 5th through 16th. Finally, there's the Transport Museum to occupy a cloudy/rainy day

2) The ride from Geneva to Zermatt has some scenic portions, especially the stretch along Lake Geneva between Lausanne and Montreux, however even if the sun is shining in the Alps, those views are often obstructed in the winter by fog or low clouds. Sit on the righthand side of the train for the best lakeside views.

3) You might be able to buy a Swiss Transfer Ticket at the Swiss Tourist Office in Paris, located at 11bis, rue Scribe. I would give them a call beforehand to check: 01 47 42 43 88. You might also want to consider the Swiss Card if you intend to take cable cars and/or long distance trains while in Switzelrand.

4) The Swiss Transfer Ticket only requires you to take the most direct routing, it doesn't matter if the train stops more or less often, or how often you change trains. It is valid to the border, just show it to the station attendant when purchasing your ticket to Venice to ensure that you only pay for the Italian portion of the journey.

Hope this helps,
Andre
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Nov 10th, 2012, 10:24 PM
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Hi jenninwv,

If you decide to go to Luzern or to Lauterbrunnen, you shouldn't go via Geneva but by Basel. (I'm assuming you're in Paris now --?)

If you don't already know it, the Swiss rail site will give you the best, direct connections from your departure to your destination. It's at

www.rail.ch

According to that site, there are a few connections each day to Lauterbrunnen with only 2 changes (Basel and Interlaken). Paris to Zermatt also requires 2 changes, Geneva and Visp. So, going to Lauterbrunnen won't require any more changes than going to Zermatt.

Going to Luzern will require only 1 or 2 changes.

Something else to consider, too: if you want, you can ship one or two of your largest suitcases once you get to Switzerland. Once you get to Basel or to Geneva, give yourself about 30 minutes at the station, and use the SBB forwarding service to ship some of the bags to your final destination. It costs 22 chf, and it'll be there in about a day.

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Nov 11th, 2012, 01:05 AM
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Here's the "problem" with Zermatt: the possibility of getting there and then going up to view the Matterhorn peak and it being totally obscured by clouds. The town itself you can easily walk from one end to the other in about an hour; I've been there several times and I think the Bernese Oberland would be/might be more worth your time.

Agreed that the scenery on the trip from Geneva along Lac Leman can be nice; the trip up from Visp to Zermatt is also of interest.

If you haven't been to Luzern I would also consider that. If you want some great mountain views then take the rail trip from Luzern to Engleberg and then ascend the three-part cableway to Mt. Titlis. The whole thing can easily be done in 1/2 day and affords great scenery.
Dukey1 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2012, 01:52 AM
  #5  
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Thank you all. This is very helpful!

I am in the Dordogne area now so the tourist office in Paris isn't an option. I was considering driving back to Paris then taking a train through Basel but it seemed a waste of time and money since 1 more hour of driving would get me to Geneva, where I can return my rental at the French side of the airport and then catch a train from the airport. That seems possible from the information I've read though I expect we might have a bit of a walk at the airport. Does anyone know of a reason why this would not work? Also, does anyone know of a swiss tourist office en route to Geneva, maybe in Lyon or on the French side of the border near Geneva? If I can't get the transfer ticket I suppose I will opt for the swiss card as Andre suggests.

So, when I was comparing connections it was based on trains from Geneva airport. I did look up routes to Luzern, based on your recommendations, and there are several direct trains throughout the day so I will definitely consider that. I'll look up more information about the area today. As far as the possibility of clouds in Zermatt, thank you for pointing out that even on sunny days the views may be obscured. I hadn't thought of that so its good to adjust my expectations! I'm okay with taking the chance though. We've heard many cautions throughout our trip as we've visited several places during their worst time but it has been wonderful with no lines at the attractions!

Thanks again. All of your replies were very helpful!
jenninwv is offline  
Nov 11th, 2012, 04:22 AM
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Hi Jenninwv,

You're welcome!

You can definitely return the car on the French side of Geneva airport, then catch the train. Do note that you will either need to purchase a Swiss motorway sticker for CHF 40 at the border, or take a more circuitous route to the French sector of the airport. This is reasonably well explained here:
http://gva.ch/en/Portaldata/1/Resour...cations/af.pdf

I really wouldn't obsess over the Swiss Card vs. Transfer Ticket. If you go up to the Gornergrat in Zermatt, you will have already recouped the price difference, and if you add the Klein Matterhorn / "Glacier Paradise" trip, you'll come out ahead. In any event, you can call the number in Paris I gave you, and ask them if there is anywhere else in France to purchase.

Final tips:
1) check out the timetables for all the mountain railways / cablecars the day before you plan to take them, as frequencies are sharply reduced at this time of year.

2) if you go to Zermatt, try to book a hotel with an indoor pool. Many of them have one, and it will give your kids ( and you...) something to do in the late afternoons and/or if the weather doesn't cooperate after all. I've stayed at the Mirabeau in the past and been very satisfied - Matterhorn view is worth the extra cost IMO. Call or e-mail them for rates, am sure they have specials at this time of year:
http://www.hotel-mirabeau.ch
Otherwise, booking.com is a great place for last minute bargains IME.

3) Depending on the length of your drive from the Dordogne, you might want to spend the night at a hotel near Geneva airport or the train station in town. Again, booking.com is a good resource. The Novotel in Ferney is probably ideal if you can keep your car that extra night, and if they don't charge a fortune for parking.
Andre is offline  
Nov 11th, 2012, 04:55 AM
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Great information, Andre! I will def read your link about driving to GVA and check the timetables in advance. I also had the same thought about a pool in Zermatt. We are on a tighter budget due to the length of our trip but I was looking at Residence Patricia which is available for a great price and offers access to the pool/spa area of the Best Western Alpen Resort. The reviews seem positive. Are you familiar with it?

Also have thought about staying overnight in Geneva but would rather not because it is always such a hassle checking in and out of places. This means that I will probably not arrive in Zermatt until late. I assume it is okay to walk from the station at night??
jenninwv is offline  
Nov 11th, 2012, 05:33 AM
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I doubt you'll get mugged at night in Zermatt ;-) It just sounds like a very long travel day.

In any event, there will be little electric taxi vehicles at Zermatt station that you can hire for about 5 CHF per person to drive you to your hotel, if they don't have their own pickup service anyway.

The Patricia looks fine, if a bit far from town and the lifts (the closest is the Sunnegga funicular, which will be closed next week) - everything is relative though. The pool and reception area (where you'll need to check in and out) in the Best Western Alpenhotel are not attached to the residence, so it looks like a bit of a hassle in that regard. I would definitely hire a taxi upon arrival, and ask the driver to wait at the Best Western while you check in. You will also want to call a taxi or catch the shuttle bus to get to the Klein Matterhorn lifts.
Andre is offline  
Nov 11th, 2012, 05:57 AM
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wonderful, thanks! I'll try a mapview of some of the other hotel/apt options before booking.
jenninwv is offline  
Nov 11th, 2012, 07:02 AM
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You're welcome!

If I were in your shoes I would still overnight at the Novotel in Ferney (or somewhere else nearby). I checked and parking at the Novotel is free. That way you would travel from Geneva to Zermatt during daylight hours.

I would then spend 3 nights in Zermatt: 1 day each for Gornergrat and Klein Matterhorn, and take the 07:39 train on day 3 to Venice, changing in Brig (it's the only connection per day with just 1 train change). You need to book seats on the express trains to Italy, so tell the ticketing agent which train you plan to take when buying your tickets to Venice - you can already do this at Geneva airport, when purchasing your Swiss Card.

Finally, I assume that you are already aware of the fact that your kids (I assume that you are their parent) will travel with you for free on "normal" Swiss trains and to the Gornergrat, as well as at half price to the Klein Matterhorn, if you purchase a Swiss Card - you just need to request a free Family Card for each of them. If you are their grandparent, a similar card is available for CHF 30.

Bon voyage!
Andre is offline  
Nov 11th, 2012, 07:24 AM
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Good point about traveling to Zermatt during daylight. It would be a shame to miss the scenery. I'll check into the Novotel and keeping my car the extra day and consider it. The 7:39 train to Venice does look good! Yes, I will request the travel card for the kids. Thanks so so much!!
jenninwv is offline  
Nov 11th, 2012, 07:39 AM
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You're welcome! You can still return the car the day before, and get to and from the Novotel (or other properties near the airport) by shuttle bus. It's just a bit less convenient.
Andre is offline  
Nov 12th, 2012, 11:15 AM
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Andre - I've been doing some research on timetables for Gornergrat and Klein Matterhorn and I came across a footnote on the zermatt.ch website that says

Trockener Steg - Matterhorn glacier paradise is closed for inspection work from 05.11. - 09.11.2012 and from 12.11. - 16.11.2012

Bad news for us as we were planning to leave Zermatt in the morning of 17 Nov. I understand that the cable car has three changes and this appears to be the last. Would it still be worthwhile to take the cable car up to the highest possible station (Schwarzsee??) just for the experience and views. Would we still go over the glacier?

I'm trying to find out now as opposed to when I arrive as it might affect whether I stay 2 nights or 3.
jenninwv is offline  
Nov 12th, 2012, 11:24 AM
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My mistake - it looks like we could go as far as Trockener Steg not Schwarzsee.
jenninwv is offline  
Nov 12th, 2012, 12:15 PM
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Aww man, they just won't give you a break ;-) I would still plan 2 days / 3 nights in Zermatt though. Here's why:

1) The weather. If it's cloudy, save your money and go for a swim and fondue/raclette (preferably in that order). You don't want to travel that far, only to bet it all on a single sunny (or not) day.

2) Even without the Klein Matterhorn tram being open, the "Matterhorn Express" gondola lift is an impressive ride. It actually takes you from Zermatt to Trockener Steg, which is almost 3'000 meters high, via no less than 3 intermediate stops, one of which is Schwarzsee. The views are great throughout the ride, and you can jump off at Schwarzsee to take a few pictures - if it isn't too cold, as there's no infrastructure aside from the gondola stop - then jump back on another gondola and continue to Trockener Steg (the gondola actually heads downhill to Furgg, then back up again). At Trockener Steg, which is at the foot of the glacier, there is a large self-service restaurant where you can hang out and enjoy the views. This is not quite as spectacular as the Gornergrat IMO, but still eminently wothwhile.

3) The wear and tear of travel: you will have driven 6-7 hours from the Dordogne, spent 4 hours on the train from Geneva, and be headed for a 7 hour train ride to Venice. Take a break, I know I would
Andre is offline  
Nov 12th, 2012, 04:25 PM
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I know, right! I had finally reached a decision to stay at the Novotel in Geneva then go the next morning to Zermatt and stay 2 nights BUT the Novotel is full and then I found out that the glacier paradise will be closed. (Not to mention the flooding in Venice!). Oh well, it will all come together; just required a little time back at the drawing board.

Any experience with Business Park Hotel in Thoiry since the Novotel is booked?

Glad to hear the cable car is still worth it even with the closure. Great details - thank you!! Still planning on doing the Gornergrat too.
jenninwv is offline  
Nov 12th, 2012, 11:17 PM
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Business Park Thoiry looks pefectly fine - have no personal experience with the property, but then I live less than 30 minutes' drive from there, so that's hardly a surprise

Have a great time - hopefully you can enjoy both peaks in Zermatt. If you have to choose one due to weather I would go for Gornergrat. I would have said the same even if Glacier Paradise were open BTW.

Acqua alta is par for the course in Venice at this time of year. The current flooding will almost certainly have subsided by the 17th, but new high tides are always possible....
Andre is offline  
Nov 15th, 2012, 10:47 AM
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So, how was Zermatt? Inquiring minds want to know
Andre is offline  
Nov 24th, 2012, 01:08 PM
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It was wonderful!!! Driving to Geneva and finding the French side of the airport was no problem though I'd been a little intimidated by that. We stayed the night near the airport then took a mid morning train up to zermatt. Zermatt was easily the highlight of our 7 weeks in Europe so far. We did the Klein Matterhorn which opened one day early due to the spectacular weather. We were very happy with residence patricia - great value with wifi, balcony with Matterhorn view, and use of BW pool and spa. Everything was absolutely perfect until I sprained my ankle very badly on the ice slide inside glacier paradise. What a terrible turn of events. It's put quite a damper on our last 3 weeks in Italy and I hope after all the wonderful experiences we've had that this is not what we remember! At any rate, thanks again for your help and advice. I can't believe I was so close to skipping a stop in Switzerland (just wish I'd skipped that ice slide!)
jenninwv is offline  
Nov 25th, 2012, 09:25 AM
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Wow, thanks for the update!

Glad that Zermatt exceeded your expectations - you did have exceptionally good timing weather-wise. So sorry to read about your accident! At least it happened while doing something special, not just by tripping over something in your own living room... Hope your ankle recovers quickly.

How was the Business Park in Thoiry? Always useful to know if someone asks me for lodging options near the airport.

Also, how did the check-in and check-out work at Residence Patricia, was it inconvenient?

Wishing you an excellent time in Italy
Andre
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